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Joined: 01/26/2012
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CO Wilderness areas...and where to start?

Gents,

A buddy and I intended to attempt our first archery hunt last season, but it never materialized. I've been tearing through pages of CO guide books, Wilderness books, etc. this winter and I'm intent on a hunt materializing this Fall.

My main question is in regards to scouting. I have a busy schedule (like most here probably do), and I'd rather get to know an area well to increase my chances over the Summer. Tried Holy Cross last season, but when we left after work on a Friday, it took us about 3.5 hours with traffic and even longer on the way back to D-town, both times I checked it out. I'm wanting to do a wilderness hunt as I only have one pref point, and I enjoy getting into the backcountry and consider myself pretty adept at that. For big game hunting, I'm a total newb though. I imagine the year will be a learning experience, but if I can at least get close to some elk or deer, I'll be satisfied.

So, does anyone have any experience with:

Lost Creek W.

Buffalo Peaks W.

Cache La Poudre W.

or Byers Peak (maybe huge crowds?)

I imagine that Indian Peaks is a mess with it being so close to Boulder and Denver?

Basically I'm just looking for info to start this process. I want to choose an area soon, get some topos, and of course start scouting when the weather warms. Thanks for any help or tips, they point in this process, especialy from any experienced hunters in the area. 

 

WishIWasHunting's picture
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Location: Brighton, CO
Joined: 01/31/2011
Posts: 666
Welcome to the wonderful

Welcome to the wonderful world of hunting and welcome to the site!  There is tons of information on here that should help you get started.  There are also lots of members from Colorado, so there is lots of very useful information there as well.  I would recommend reading through all of the Western Hunter's blog on this website.  Some of those articles might give you some good ideas to narrow down your search for a hunting area.  

Unfortunately, I do not have any experience with nearly all of the wilderness areas you mentioned.  I did hunt the National Forest near Indian Peaks last year during archery season, and it is overran with recreationalists.  Strangely enough, I never actually came across anyone while I was out hiking, but it is frustrating to essentially be sitting in traffic on a four wheel drive trail while trying to get out of the area.  

Stick around and ask more questions as they come to you.  Good luck getting your hunt going for this fall.  

WesternHunter's picture
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Joined: 05/05/2006
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wilderness

Welcome to the forum.

With regards to your choices of areas to hunt I'd say that you have a pretty good change of encountering deer and elk in all those areas.  It's all a matter of how far in you are willing to go.  Also it all depends on how serious a hunter you are too.  Too many people don't get very far off a road or trail.  You best odds will be walking in away from the crowd at least a mile off a road.  Preferably 2 to 3 miles, you lose much of the pressure going in that far. If you're not already in shape, then get into peak physical condition, it will give you the added edge and advanatge over others hunting the same area. 

With regards to Indian Peaks, don't overlook areas that seem too close to Boulder or Denver.  There are some pretty good areas close to the front range that most hunter overlook and pass on by on their way up to the high country.  I have an older retired friend who hunts the tricky public land in GMU 38 and the areas around Rollinsville and Peak to Peak Highway.  He brings home an elk every year, no kidding.  Indian Peaks area is a pretty good area to start if you can get far enough in and away from the sight-seeing crowd. 

My advice:  Pick an area in the wilderness or NF that you want to hunt, one that looks good to you, any area that looks good to you.  Find an area where there are few access points by 4x4 road, but not a whole lot of roads.  I find that the rougher the roads the less likely you are to find other hunters wanting to drive there. 

Make sure you have the right type of vehicle to hunt elk.  I say it time and time again here on this site - there is a reason why most elk hunter own and drive 4x4 full sized pickup trucks with tough suspenstions and good agressive tires.. 

Park or camp near that access point and walk in to the area you've picked.  Use Google Earth or BirdsEye View to locate open meadows, some are so small you can only see them by zooming in close on satalite view.  A lot of these meadows are in the middle of heavy timber far away from trails.  Use any existing trails to get into an area, but go farther off trail into some of these hidden isolated meadows.  Hang out on the edges of these tiny meadows to get a change at seeing elk.  Keep in mind that in these wilderness areas with the terrain being what it is, there is only going to be so much ground that you can cover on foot during your hunting trip.  Pick an area any size you want, but I suggest an area about 3 square miles in size and devote the time to that area for the week, and I doubt you'll see all of that area in the time you're there. 

During the summer scout look for signs of elk - droppings, sheds, prints, bedding areas, and tree rubs.  If there is sign then there is sure to be plenty of elk.  The more sign the better, doesn't matter if you actually see elk or not, fresh signs speak volumes.  Elk typically don't begin to move out of their summer range until just after 3rd rifle season depending on when the heavy snow pushed them to migrate down, so keep that in mind.  When in their ranges and threatened by hunting, elk and deer don't really go too far, they simply go into places of steeper timbered terrain, shelfs, and feed in smaller isolated meadows, places where most hunters aren't likely to go.  When you hunt public land, it's in your best interest to investing in maps and GPS downloads.  Get National Forest 4x4 road maps, 7.5 min quad topo, Trails Illustrated topo maps, BLM maps, County road maps.  A good GPS that's capable of displaying satallite image downloads is a great tool to have these days. 

But trust me on one thing, if there is a paved mountain road with plenty of turn-outs along it that travels through a national forest or public land, then I can promise you there will be tons of overcrowding hunter pressuring the area daily, all season long.  Ute Pass Rd in Summit County is a perfect example of what I'm talking about.

Good luck!!!

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Joined: 01/26/2012
Posts: 4
Thank you both for the

Thank you both for the info.

Western, good advice and thanks for taking the time to respond with all of that info!

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Location: Colorado
Joined: 07/13/2011
Posts: 855
If you're talking about a

If you're talking about a true wilderness area as defined by the DOW. You won't have any roads, and few hunters. No wheels can touch a wilderness area. Not even a game cart.

WesternHunter's picture
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roadless

Still Hunter wrote:

If you're talking about a true wilderness area as defined by the DOW. You won't have any roads, and few hunters. No wheels can touch a wilderness area. Not even a game cart.

 

All true, they don't allow use of motorized roads within.  But the Wilderness Areas here do have roads or trails that lead right upto them in most cases.  It's just a matter of finding good access to get you close, then walking in by foot or hoof.

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Location: Colorado
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Posts: 855
The roads just go to edge of

The roads just go to edge of the wilderness area right? There's no roads actually in the area?

Critter's picture
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Location: Western Colorado
Joined: 03/26/2009
Posts: 3869
There are quite a few

There are quite a few wilderness areas here in Colorado with old roads in them that have been closed since it became wilderness.  They were either logging roads or even roads to mining claims.  We have a new area that they are trying to designate a wilderness here in Eagle County that has a road right through its middle that the Forest Service just closed down a few years ago. 

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Location: Colorado
Joined: 07/13/2011
Posts: 855
Yes, I hunt an area that has

Yes, I hunt an area that has that. Makes it easy to get in and out. Plus, since the roads are unused. The game are comfortable using them as game trails.

You know what I meant though. No roads that can be used now. So, no blasted ATV's.

WesternHunter's picture
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roads in wilderness

Yes, that is correct, you will find there are many old logging roads and old 4x4 jeep trails that you may find in some areas winding throughout a designated Wilderness Area, but they are closed to anything but foot and hoof traffic.  Generally they are not mapped on current maps as motorized roads or 4x4 trails, and if they are mapped at all they will be mapped as hiking or horse trails. But on current maps they are't usually charted.  Some USGS 7.5 quad maps will still show these older roads or trails, many can sill be see on google earth or other satalite or aerial images.  Wilderness Area means NO ATVs either.

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Location: Southeast Colorado
Joined: 01/07/2007
Posts: 93
Technically, designated

Technically, designated Wilderness Areas have no roads in them.  However, when many Wilderness Area boundaries were drawn, existing road systems were "cherry-stemed" into the overall area.  Meaning that although the road is not within the actual wilderness itself, it may penetrate deeply into the area and the wilderness boundary may be 100 yards off the road but follow it for miles.  The road itself has been excluded from the wilderness but it essentially travels into the area.  This isn't common but it's not unusual either.  Your best bet is to obtain maps of the area and study them well.  Just because it's designated Wilderness doesn't mean you won't have vehicles nearby.  The bigger the area, the less likelyhood of mechanized intrusion.

There are also plenty of places in Colorado that are not designated Wilderness but are officially "roadless".  Many of them buffer designated wilderness but some are stand alone areas.  You can google the maps.

And since you asked, of the 4 areas you considered, I'd go with Buffalo Peaks. 

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